Not a Sequel, but it Feels Like One
I’ve noted here a few times that I’m a fan of the original 2011 series, Madoka Magica. It was a darker magical girl series, far from the first, but one that I particularly liked for how it all came together. Most notably, its characters, the art/animation, and of course sound. Then came its follow-up film in 2013, Rebellion, which reopened the series for future works (on top of being a very good film). What came was silence for several years, that is, until today’s title, Magia Record came out during the Winter 2020 season.
While Magia Record is considered a side story, it’s even in the title, it doesn’t entirely feel like one. Aside from one particular character, everything that occurs in this series acts almost as a logical extension of the original work and Rebellion film. I’m getting a tiny bit ahead of myself though.
For those unaware, Magia Record is an adaptation of a mobile game. It follows the story of Iroha Tamaki and her search for her missing sister as well as investigating a rumor that all magical girls can be saved if they come to Kamihama City. As you can see, it’s plot that lends itself to going in a lot of directions, so how’s this all handled?
Overall, I’d say the story handles itself fairly well. Starting with a tight focus on Iroha, the story slowly expands outward adding in groups of new girls at a decent pace throughout the entirety of the season. You’ll also see a mix of new and old faces alike, which was a nice bit of fanservice, but also a great way to bridge the gap between each series.
Unfortunately, this does lead to a potential issue that some viewers will inevitably have. That’s the fact that the cast is pretty large, and as a result, not everybody is as fleshed out as they otherwise could be. This is extra true on the returning faces, as you are expected to already know them. In fact, some of the “twists” of the series depend on you knowing how these characters should be.
For me this wasn’t an issue though. There’s enough here in Magia Record to convey enough about the lesser characters while building on the ones that obviously matter throughout the 13 episodes in this first half.
Speaking of, this is only half the story. Which I want to speak on now, as opposed to the end where I otherwise would normally, because it’s important to keep in mind while viewing. There’s a LOT going on in terms of plot.
You have Iroha looking for her sister, the introduction of things called “Uwasa”, which are rumor fueled alternatives to witches, things called “dopples”, Yachiyo’s plot, and of course the mystery surrounding both Kamihama City as well as the “Wings of The Magias” group. There’s just no way this all gets addressed in a single core.
With that in mind, what we do get around to in this first half is pretty good. Outside of the final few episodes, Magia Record is very well paced. It keeps itself engaging by continually introducing new elements while furthering the existing ones. Even when a situation takes 2-3 episodes to resolve, all sorts of new developments and revelations occur alongside that incident.
Even with all this said, it’s not as if you couldn’t jump into this as your entry point into the franchise. While it’s obviously nice to have the full context, the series goes out of its way to fill the audience in on the information you’d otherwise be missing out on. At least, when it comes to plot, as I’ve mentioned it glosses over some character things.
This leads to some weaker moments towards the end of the series. If you already know the truth about magical girls, then this is inherently less interesting. Not to mention the animation and direction is notably worse (particularly in the last episode) as the conclusion draws nearer.
Despite these flaws, Magia Record delivers when it comes to the unique style the franchise is known for. Visuals are surreal, if not otherworldly even, and are packed with detail. This is especially apparent during the witch scenes, and even the Uwasa scenes. The new Uwasa plots are also really cool, as rumors seemed to be a big theme this Winter season, so it had this sense of “meta relevance” while allowing for a lot more variance in the types of stories that could be told.
Building on that is the music, which again, is a solid mix of new and old scores alike. You even have returning artists for some of the new stuff, which is really great to see. Having these elements return does a lot to elevate Magia Record and allow this to feel like the sequel it really isn’t. The consistency in detail goes a long way in other words.
If you had asked me after Rebellion if I wanted more for Madoka Magica, I would have quickly said “yes” to the question. However, Magia Record would not have been the form that I would have pictured for this. Yet, I am very satisfied with the direction the franchise has taken, even if this is adjacent to the mainline series or an alternate timeline altogether.
While I do have some reservations in how the story will ultimately wrap up in part two, I am actually rather hopeful in that it will deliver. At worst, it’ll drive some interest in the mobile game (which I won’t lie, I am slightly intrigued by) and be a mild disappointment. If this occurs, I suspect it will end at the first part/act of the mobile game’s story. Otherwise, it’ll grant a mostly complete experience with a few open ends to achieve a similar goal.
By the way, I watched this in English and it was great. Only one episode was a little stilted, but that likely had to do with COVID, and less to do with the acting. Just something to note.
Either way, I currently haven’t regretted giving this a watch and likely won’t when all said and done. Magia Record has revived a franchise that’s been standing still for several years, so the taste of its unique flavor has been more than welcome. I can only hope it hits strong and we can get yet more of the fantastic franchise.
What are your thoughts on Madoka Magica as a franchise as well as the new Magia Record story? Do you play the mobile game? Let me know in the comments below! If you like my work here, please consider making a donation by visiting either my Patron on Ko-fi pages linked via the buttons below. Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you again soon!